Don Moir, an ALS patient, wrote a love letter to his wife and was able to audibly say “I love you, Lorraine” for the first time in 15 years, thanks to a digital solution by the Not Impossible team, Speak Your Mind Foundation and HP’s #BendTheRules. Read Not Impossible Now’s Q&A with Lorraine:
NIN: How did you and Mick Ebeling meet?
Lorraine Moir: I only met Mick face to face after we started filming. I had initially heard Mick’s interview on the CBC radio when he had been talking about his invention of the Eyewriter. In the interview he mentioned Javed Gangjee, who Don and I had met before. So I reached out to Javed, who said that he had been working with Not Impossible and Mick. Having wanted to be a part of what Javed was doing, we told them that we were willing to help in any way we can.
What inspired you to be a part of this project?
Lorraine: Don and I wanted to help Not Impossible and Javed out. We were happy to be the guinea pigs as a part of creating something that could potentially help others, and in the process something that would work for Don.
How has this technology changed the way you and Don communicate?
Lorraine: The device is still a work in progress, so it hasn’t really changed the way we communicate on a daily basis yet. We have been using the letter board for so long that we have become really efficient at it. Because this device is still in a developmental phase, we are hoping it will become faster and faster and more efficient than the letter board for everyday use.
It has definitely helped other people who don’t have the option of the letter board like we have. Those people are using it currently, and we want to help Javed figure out how to make it faster and have things like email capability.
What possibilities have opened up for Don now that you have this enhanced way of communicating? Were there other parts of your life that were sometimes too laborious to communicate about that you can now? The ease of communication.
Lorraine: We picture this opening up the communication possibilities for Don in a way that makes him able to have so much more independence. We see it having the potential to enable Don to have conversations without me in the room. He could email farmer-to-farmer for our business, and friend-to-friend. He could talk to people without me and even talk to me while I am doing other things, like driving or washing the dishes. Right now, I can’t speak to Don with the letter board while doing those things.
Did you try other devices in the past? What made this one different?
Lorraine: We tried others, yes. There is a clinic near where we live which we visited twice over the last 10 years. The clinic had something similar to this device, but it was bigger, bulkier, and didn't work at all for Don. When he tried it, every time he moved his head he would have to recalibrate his eyes. This process was frustrating and not efficient at all. Not to mention the size of this thing. It was huge! It wasn’t practical and it was frustrating. That was 5 years ago, so it makes sense in that it was all they had to work with. But you can see why when we saw this device, that this one is definitely smaller, more mobile, and easier to use, which made it much more practical overall.
How is it different from the way you used to communicate with the letter board?
Lorraine: With the device, I am no longer the in-between in Don’s communication. With the letter board, I am the intermediate and Don has to use me and my voice to speak to both me and others. With this device he can communicate independently and there is a verbal voice saying his thoughts instead of me saying his thoughts.
How do you feel about the possibility in the future of being able to communicate by email, or social media platforms. What does this open up to Don?
Lorraine: Don is so excited about the possibilities that it opens up for him. He is excited to talk to me, his friends and kids more freely. And he doesn't have to depend on me to do it. I will be able to drive and do the dishes and have a conversation with him.
How did the letter come about?
Lorraine: My son Andrew came up with the idea with Mick, and they proposed it to Don and me.
In just a sentence or two, if it's possible, I'd love for you to just tell me a little about how you felt after this project was complete and you heard Don write you that letter. It was just the most amazing thing to watch on video, and I can't even imagine how you felt.
Lorraine: Over the last 25 years Don has always been sentimental and loving with me. We are generally both very affectionate towards each other. And he had to practice writing the letter with me, so when he actually wrote it it wasn’t a surprise! But it was really nice to audibly hear it. Don and I both tell each other loving things all the time.
Related: Download Don’s Keyboard
Related: Photo Gallery: ‘Don’s Voice’